Advice needed on buying new camcorder.

ajw

Standard Member
Hello! First post here, I've been spending the last week or so browsing for my first camcorder, tearing my hair out trying to decide on one without any success, then found this forum which seems to be full of useful advice and thought that somebody may be able to help me decide. Anyway, onwards with the post!

I suppose I should first specify what I'm looking for in a camcorder. The main things are:

- I have a budget of around £300, but would be willing to go up to about £350 if the camcorder was good enough.

- I'm probably looking for a standard definition camera (though that's perhaps clear from my price range), as I was informed by a man in Currys that I'd probably be unable to view HD videos on my computer anyway, and they'd take up a hell of a lot of space, which would require me to invest more on a large external hard drive.

- A good image quality (though I suppose that's probably a given ;) )

- Something that's fairly good in low-light conditions. Obviously it would be foolish to expect anything brilliant for my budget, but I'd like something that can cope reasonably with it, and doesn't come out as too grainy, as I'll probably be doing a lot of shooting in quite low-light.

- Ideally, I'd like a mic-input, though from what I've seen of cameras I've browsed, I may have to choose between a good low-light performance and a mic-input. I'd like a good sound quality anyway. (Wouldn't everybody?)

- The videos I make are primarily going to be uploaded to youtube. I may want to put some of them on DVD to send out occasionally, but yeah, they'll primarily be for youtube. Whether this impacts anything I'm not sure.


With all these things in mind, the cameras I've been taking a look at were:

- Sony DCR-SR55e (Would recording in MPEG format to a Hard Disk see a noticable difference in quality compared to Mini-DV when viewed on youtube? Or is the difference primarily visible on DVD recordings?)

- Canon FS100 (which is apparently fairly poor in low light, but has mic input, good image quality in good conditions)

- Sony DCR-HC62 (Seems quite good in low light, but no mic input, also, potentially a noticable recording sound?)

- Canon MD235 (Seems good and cheap, but is the low-light performance the same as on the FS100?)

- Panasonic GS330 (Great image quality, but apparently very poor battery life and has no mic input. Unsure of low-light quality)


Anyway, I'd really like some advice on which camera might best suit my needs if anybody is able to give any. If there's a camera that I've overlooked that might also be worth investigating, I'd love to hear about it too. I'd basically just like some guidance before I make this significant investment anyway. Any help provided would be hugely appreciated :)

Thanks!

Andy
 

montybaber

Well-known Member
Hi there :)

Im sure some of the very helpful peeps will be along soon enough but in the meantime I thought id post :D

I am very new to all this and was in the same boat as you a few weeks ago, I decided to go for a JVC GZHD3, it should be in your price range if you shop about (i picked mine up in comet discontinued) and its a HD camcorder witha 60 gb harddrive.

It is acceptable in low light (not brilliant but quite aceptable in my view) im pretty sure it has an input for an external mic and pic quality is v good.

my laptop is fairly slow but handles editing the hd footage and I just bought a 500gb external hd for £50, even with the external HD it all came to under 300 so may be worth a look
 

ajw

Standard Member
Hello! Thanks for your advice, I've just had a browse for the JVC GZHD3, but couldn't see one within my price range unfortunately. I think it may be easier for me to go for a standard definition camera to begin with too, as I'm not entirely sure my computer would be able to cope with editing HD, and I probably wouldn't be able to view the videos on my computer either, which would be a shame. Incidentally, regarding editing software, I was looking at getting Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 for about £40 from amazon, however (and this may be a spectacularly newbie-ish question, but what the heck) are you only able to use Sony cameras with that program?

Any clarification on the software issue, and any further advice on the camera question would be hugely appreciated :)
 

tennant

Active Member
Many HD camcorders will allow you to output the footage as standard definition. So if your computer isn't up to editing or playing back HD footage now, you can work in SD; but at some point in the future you have the HD footage to make use of...an option not available if it was shot in SD.

Tennant
 

ajw

Standard Member
Ah, I see. So would working in SD format on an HD camera be fine to view on my PC too then? Would it record it all in AVCHD still? I only ask as if it did I'd probably need software capable of dealing with that format, and I'm not sure how expensive that would be. I mean, an HD camera would probably be worth investing in for the long run, but in all honesty, I'm not sure I've got the money to do that at the moment judging by the prices of the ones I've seen (as well as potentially requiring more expensive software and a large external hard drive), so that's part of the reason I've been looking for a good lower-budget camera around the £300 and under mark. It's going to be my first camcorder, so I'm a bit wary of splashing out too much cash on it at this point, and might be more comfortable upgrading to a more expensive HD one at a later date if I did get more serious about making films etc rather than spending a huge amount of money now and then finding out it wasn't something I was going to keep up (if you see what I mean). Obviously, that's not to say I don't want something good at this point, as I'd still like to try and make good quality videos, but as I say, it'll be a kind of introductory camera if you will, so I may not necessarily go down the HD route at this point. Thanks for your help though, I do appreciate it, and it is something I'll take into account if I do happen to see a more reasonably priced HD camera :)
 

A n d r e w

Well-known Member
Many HD camcorders will allow you to output the footage as standard definition.
Many? Not many. HDV camcorders (which record to tape) do, sometimes. AVCHD camcorders (non-tape) do not. Some (again: very few) allow you to record standard definition mpeg2 instead of high definition mpeg4, which is quite a different fish kettle from recording HD for posterity and downconverting to SD for editing and distribution in the meantime.

EDIT: Unless by "output" you mean using the composite video cables connected to a capture device, which will give you standard definition video. Not exactly a good quality option, mind you.
 
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ajw

Standard Member
With all this in mind (and thanks to everybody who has provided comments so far), I do think I'll be going for a standard definition camera now certainly. Is anybody able to recommend one from the shortlist I've got or otherwise that may suit my needs?
 

A n d r e w

Well-known Member
It's a tricky one. Decent low light abilities, mic input . . . For me, it has to be the Canon MD235. The Panasonic GS330 will give you better pictures as it uses three 1/6" CCD sensors rather than the single 1/6" CCD of the MD235 (and the FS100 - so they'll be equivalent in terms of low light quality), but as you note it doesn't offer a mic input. So if the mic input is essential, that rules out the Panasonic.

Among the cameras that remain, the Canon is for me the best of the bunch. Just don't expect miracles shooting indoors - that's not really what these things were made for. The picture will be grainy, and the colours a little washed out, depending on exactly how much light you've got at your disposal. Some find that the motor noise on the Canon is a little loud. My advice would be to find someone with a good returns policy (Amaz*n, for example), and try a couple before you finally settle for one in particular.

Andrew.
 

ajw

Standard Member
Hello again, and thankyou for the continued assistance. In terms of low light performance, I've heard the Canon FS100/MD235 is pretty poor, but to be honest, from the videos I've seen on youtube it doesn't seem too bad. I mean, I was leaning at one point towards the Sony DCR-SR55E because it's supposedly better in low-light (something which may be more important to me than the mic-input, even if the Sony has that too on an optional accessory shoe), but having also watched some videos of that on youtube, it doesn't seem to be as good as the Canon cameras, so I'm leaning towards those now.

Of course, when choosing between the Canon FS100 and the MD235, there's obviously the difference in storage to take into account (I'm a clumsy person, I break things, so flash memory might be more practical), but are there any differences in specification between the two? Also, if I were to capture to Mini DV tapes, would the MD235 footage have to be compressed to the same quality as the FS100 anyway, if I were to upload it to youtube?

Oh, and just one final question for now, would Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 be fine to edit footage of the Canon cameras with? As always, any clarification on any of these questions would be massively appreciated :)
 

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